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Ash Wednesday in Australia

Many Christians in Australia observe Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent. It is the beginning of the Lenten fast and is the day after Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake Day.

Is Ash Wednesday a Public Holiday?

Ash Wednesday is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Bowl of ashes
The practice of marking foreheads with ashes occurs in some Christian churches on Ash Wednesday.
The practice of marking foreheads with ashes occurs in some Christian churches on Ash Wednesday.
Illustration based on artwork from©iStockphoto.com/Ben Beltman

What Do People Do?

Some churches in Australia hold special Ash Wednesday services in the evenings or during the day. It is a time when people who seek penitence for their wrongdoings are marked with the sign of the cross, from blessed ashes, on their forehead. This symbolic occasion reminds people of their mortality and sorrow for sins, as well as the will for change and the hope of forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten discipline for many Christian churches. It is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer. Many Catholic private schools teach their students about the concept of Ash Wednesday and its importance in the church and in one’s life.

For some Christians, Lent is a time to think about life and death, as well as reflect on life’s choices and possible life directions. Christian retreats may be organized in some parts of Australia for people to reflect on, learn, and share with others what they have learnt during this time of the year. It is also a time of goodwill for many people. There are also those who chose this time of the year to donate to charities or take part in charity events as a way to get close to God.

Public Life

Ash Wednesday is not a public holiday in Australia.

Background and Symbols

The practice of marking foreheads with ashes was common among Roman Catholic churches and a few other churches in Australia. However, this practice is now spreading across various other Christian denominations. A general article about Ash Wednesday worldwide covers more information about its background and symbols.

About Ash Wednesday in other countries

Read more about Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010WedFeb 17Ash WednesdayChristian 
2011WedMar 9Ash WednesdayChristian 
2012WedFeb 22Ash WednesdayChristian 
2013WedFeb 13Ash WednesdayChristian 
2014WedMar 5Ash WednesdayChristian 
2015WedFeb 18Ash WednesdayChristian 
2016WedFeb 10Ash WednesdayChristian 
2017WedMar 1Ash WednesdayChristian 
2018WedFeb 14Ash WednesdayChristian 
2019WedMar 6Ash WednesdayChristian 
2020WedFeb 26Ash WednesdayChristian 

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